10 February 2009

now look at all we've won, with the saber and the gun

Let me start by saying that this is not a milblog. The Army is my life, but not my Life. I have other things capturing my attention, other thoughts in my head that don't have an ACU pattern. Paradoxically, the Army is so BIG in my life, I couldn't possibly separate it from the rest - there would be only little scraps of paper. For either reason (or both), this cannot and will not ever be a strictly Army blog, and I will never register it on milblogging.com or submit a post for The Sandbox. [I am not criticizing either of these sites, they are just not for me.] And while I'm not actively trying to hide this blog from anyone in my past, current, or future chains of command, I'm not actively advertising it either. I just don't think any of those individuals need to know what things make me intimately happy or about my emails from MySpace or which memories I miss the most

That said, sometimes things within and about the Army force their way into my consciousness in such manner that cannot be ignored. Currently, this is the alarming dipping into the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) that is happening more and more as repeated deployments exhaust the traditional active and reserve forces. Until recently I have only read about it in passing - take a look here (13 Stoploss) and here (Army of Dude) for some particularly heart-wrenching examples - but this week I got to meet three Soldiers who are living this nightmare.

I'm a public affairs instructor at a mobilization station that supports OIF. I was recruited for this program because I recently came home from theatre. My MOS (46Q), along with my sister MOS (46R), is in short supply for a great number of reason that don't relate to this post - but I'll spell it out at a later time, I promise. In any case, the units that have been coming through our mobsite have been more and more short-staffed. When my own unit mobilized (and this was in June of 2007, mind you), we'd agreed to fill our vacancies with infantry, forward observer, signal, chemical, aviation, and ordnance Soldiers. Call it desperation, but at least everyone we took with us was a drilling member of the National Guard. No surprise brown envelopes.

This unit we have on ground has three Soldiers who were pulled from the IRR, and not one of the three has a public affairs MOS. They are all 42As, admin Soldiers, with no military or civilian experience in working with the media or operating a professional still/video camera. And worse, there is no time to send them to school to get qualified with their (surprise!) new MOS. So they get to stop getting on with their lives and deploy, and do a job they didn't enlist to do and won't receive adequate training for. We have them for 10 days. Training for 46Q is 60; it's the same for 46R, which these three Soldiers will be expected to perform as in theatre. Here's a fucking camera, now go be like AFN. WTF?

It would be like telling me I had to deploy as a light wheeled mechanic or a laundry/shower specialist or a chaplain's assistant. A Soldier is a Soldier is a Soldier, except not really.

And troubling is the fucking apathy toward Soldiers who face this. Just today I had a conversation with two people referencing the three Soldiers I just mentioned, and one of the responses I got was, and I quote, "I don't feel bad for you Soldiers; you all signed on the dotted line." Are you fucking serious? Maybe I, maybe we agreed to be Soldiers, and it's true, we agreed to a number of sacrifices. But when do these sacrifices stop? These three have done their time in the job field they were trained in. Because they "signed on the dotted line," they now deserve what they get? How about protecting those who have already protected the rest of the country?

And for the record, and for those who don't know me, I'm not in the IRR, nor will I be in the near future, if ever. I'm in my second enlistment contract, and I'm sure I'll do 20 years. I'm not outraged/dismayed for myself, you see - it's my brothers and sisters who serve and have served who I'm worried about.

"oh I must have killed a million men
and now they want me back again"

- Phil Ochs "I Ain't Marching Anymore" -

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